The first thing that struck me when looking at Stanley Rice’s autobiography was the title, “The Memories of a Rolling Stone”: Times and Incidents remembered. When I think about what it means to be a ‘rolling stone’, it is someone who travels or moves around a lot and cannot stay in one place for too long, which definitely fits Rice’s lifestyle. Although he was talented in school, he was unable to continue with his studies because he had to work and provide for his family, which led him down the road of being in and out of different jobs. So perhaps in using, ‘Memories of a Rolling Stone’, he was reflecting the extended metaphor on his life; fast-paced and ever-changing, but not in a way that he could control. Rice has thrived on creating new opportunities and business ventures for himself and to provide for his wife. However, on reflection, he questions whether it was all worth it, because in his old age, writing at the age of sixty-nine, he lives in rented housing and has little to show for all his hard work. I think luck and timing has aided the ups and downs of his life. As his business was flourishing, WW2 broke out and he had to change career, and lost his business; from then on he found it difficult to find something stable as the world was changing and developing.
Although Stanley Rice does not explicitly give a reason for writing his autobiography, he does suppose a reader in the Introduction, as he says, ‘Having put pen to paper, I guess I am assuming a great deal in thinking that what I am about to record will be of interest to any reader’ (1); who this reader is, I can only assume. In Regenia Gagnier’s essay on Social Atoms: Working-Class Autobiography, Subjectivity and Gender, she says ‘Most working-class autobiographies begin not with a family lineage or a birth date but rather with an apology for their authors’ ordinariness’ (338), which is true of Rice, as he apologises in advance for his ordinariness. He also says, ‘That you, the reader, have read so far, allows me a feeling of a minute degree of anticipated success without which it would be useless for me to continue.’ (1) The fact that he says that it would be useless to continue without a reader, says a lot about what he thinks about his life and how he underestimates the greatness and excitement of it, which I experienced reading page to page. He may not have been the most successful business man, but what he never done was give up, which I admire him for.
Real life writing is more important and significant than fiction and the historical aspects of Rice’s memoirs add clarity and are something that he finds important. He says, ‘Memory can play so many tricks, but I sincerely hope I have not incorrectly dated any incident, or placed the sequence of happenings out of order, or been unfair to any one individual’ (68), so his writing is of historical value and significance, thus the purpose of his autobiography is about educating the reader. His self conscious approach, which is understandable because putting himself in the public domain, takes confidence and adds clearness to the writing. Also, as the sequence of his life is in ascending order it makes it easy to follow for any reader.
His wife has one of the biggest impacts of his life in the autobiography and is the closest family member to him. After his mother and father pass away, which he mentions only briefly, there is no more mention of his immediate relatives or friends. This could indicate that the autobiography was not intended for his family, as most memoirs were in the 18th or 19th century, but for any person out there who genuinely is interested in working-class life with ‘all its ups and downs’ (1).
It has been difficult deciphering the audience of Stanley Rice’s autobiography, but from reading critics who write about working-class autobiographies, most were about recording lost experiences, to make money or simply for personal enjoyment. It could be a combination of these things, and to teach future generations about working-class life, the ups and downs of it and greatly, about the war. As Rice transitions into old age, it comes as a good time to record his lost memories.
RICE, Stanley, ‘The Memories of a Rolling Stone: Times and incidents remembered’, TS, pp.68 (c. 33,600 words). Brunel University Library, 2:661
Gagnier, Reginia. ‘Social Atoms: Working-Class Autobiography, Subjectivity and Gender’. Victorian Studies, 30.3 (1987), 353-363.